Monday, October 26, 2015

Slaying Unicorns - 2015 Season Review

In the past I have had a couple of race venues take on the identity of my achilles heel in which there seemed to be a steady trend of mishaps and sub-standard results that did not mirror the training I had put in. I called them Unicorns in an earlier post representing the creatures I could not tame. Even more than the race venues themselves it had really become an issue of a distance, 70.3 / half ironman. I could count on one hand the decent finishes I have had in the twenty plus attempts. Ironman Kansas was the pinnacle of these failures in which I had attempted it six times with my best finish seventh overall amateur. The failures had worsened in recent years to the point I was often reduced to walking as a result of abdominal pains, overheating, or a combination of the two. Only perhaps three times had I felt I put together a complete race. I was in search of a full season of consistent race finishes across all distances that would, at the very least, be representative of the training I had done.

I had held to the belief that much of my failure at the 70.3 distance was a combination of non-training factors since my workout times were not translating to comparable race times. I needed to figure out how to attack what I had already identified as my main limiters; heat acclimation and abdominal pain issues.

Heat acclimation
Last year I wrote a more detailed post on Heat Acclimation as I have come to understand it. I've stayed dedicated to my protocols this year and it's paying off.

Abdominal Pains
I discovered this year I have a gluten intolerance that had been contributing to abdominal pain while racing. This discovery definitely made this the most enjoyable racing season I've had in years. I have more thoughts on this that I will share later.

Conquering Unicorns
With new hope and commitment to my primary limiters I found success, and more importantly consistent success, over the entire course of my season. Eight sprint and Olympic victories including the Kansas City Triathlon, 3rd place overall amateur at the Des Moines Triathlon, 12th place 30-34 AG at ITU World Championships, and 2nd Overall  and 30-34AG National Long Course Champion at Redman Half Distance Triathlon. The Nickel Racing Support Crew always had something to celebrate.

Unicorn #1:
Kansas 70.3 (now Legend 70) in Lawrence
First Place Overall Amateur
It was a hot day (humid and temps near 90, dew point likely in the mid 70’s) I set my planned HR and power efforts of what I knew I was capable in those conditions and had patience to stick to them. For the first time in a long time at this distance my primary limiter was my legs and I pushed them all the way to the finish. Stephan was stoked!

Unicorn #2:
Des Moines Triathlon (previously HyVee)
3rd Place Overall Amateur
This was another race where I never felt like I had achieved a worthy effort in my previous five attempts with my best finish being seventh place. Although some of the mystique of HyVee was gone with the elimination of the world class pro race not much changed with the amateur race and prizes. Again I raced much more to my physical potential on the day and cruised to a podium finish; even without tapering as I would have for all previous attempts. Corynn cheered me on!

Unicorn #3
Redman 70.3 Triathlon
2nd Place Overall / National Long Course Champion 30-34 Age Group
In 2014 I had what was the epitomy of my 70.3 distance racing troubles as I stumbled home to a lackluster 8th place finish in 4:41. Fast forward to 2015 I swam and rode strong, but patiently, and then ran 1:26 to finish second again with my legs as my primary limiter. Maybe not the most fit I’ve ever been but I was very happy to race to my capabilities on the day and without any abdominal pains or heat stress. Dad was delighted (me too)!

In 2016 my plans are to take advantage of the proximity of AG Nationals (Omaha, NE), take my spot for Long Course Worlds in OKC, and look for a couple of other 70.3's with a renewed optimism for what I am really capable of achieving.